How ‘The Last Dance’ Has Impacted the Chicago Bulls Vintage Market

From independent boutiques to throwback sportswear brands, here's how 'The Last Dance' has impacted the Michael Jordan & Bulls vintage market.

Chicago Bulls Vintage

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Chicago Bulls Vintage

On April 19, when ESPN’sThe Last Dance documentary about the iconic Chicago Bulls dynasty dropped, lots of people turned to Ebay to purchase a piece of Michael Jordan or Chicago Bulls nostalgia, whether that was through vintage apparel or Jordan sneakers. People searched for “Michael Jordan” 821 times per minute on Ebay the day the documentary dropped and sales on the platform rose by 198 percent in comparison to a few days prior. And its average one-day sales for Chicago Bulls items spiked 5,156 percent over what they averaged in the beginning of April. 

The Last Dance has stirred up the Twitter timeline, which is dominated by debates, memes, and overall elation from viewers as they reminisce on the legacy of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, the enigma that is Dennis Rodman. But it’s also brought an increased interest to the vintage apparel market as people look for their own relic of Bulls memorabilia in the lead up to the final two episodes airing this Sunday. 

Because it was the ‘90s, plenty of this merchandise was produced. The market includes everything ranging from T-shirts emblazoned with Rodman’s face that had color-changing hair to Champion mesh jerseys and snapback caps. Browsing Ebay is proof of how much there truly is. A vintage Dennis Rodman Nike T-shirt is currently listed for $469. Official Starter T-shirts celebrating the Bulls’ second three-peat can be found for $80. There is something for any budget. And now people are feeding into that nostalgia and shopping for these pieces.

Bulls Vintage Rings T-shirt

“I think that era and Jordan kind of transcended sports and just became a pop culture thing,” said Round Two co-founder Luke Fracher. “People are super attracted to it all over the world. People in North Korea love the Bulls. For that generation, it's like the best sports story of their lifetime.”

Round Two is one of the many vintage retailers that has done its best to capitalize on the current hype by releasing curated collections of Bulls merchandise via its new online store. While Bulls merch is always a popular seller, the renewed attention has given it a momentary spike.

“It brings the nostalgia back and brings people into the market who maybe wouldn't have wanted to buy an old Bulls shirt but now want one because they are seeing what [that era] was like,” says Fracher. Round Two’s Chicago flagship even keeps a rack dedicated to strictly Bulls vintage gear because it is such a hot commodity in the city to this day. “If someone's selling me a pile of vintage stuff, I'm never going to pass on a good Bulls shirt. I'm never going to pass on a good Dennis Rodman shirt.”

Vintage boutiques like Los Angeles’ For All to Envy, Houston’s Imperial, and New York’s Mr. Throwback have dropped limited runs of their own designs celebrating Rodman and other members of the Bulls, most of which sold out shortly after release. Rare Vntg, a vintage seller based in Philadelphia, recently dropped its own assortment of throwback gear to mark the premiere of the seventh and eighth episodes. Pieces include one-of-one tie-dye flips of official Starter championship T-shirts and rare original T-shirts released by Nike during Jordan’s prime. 

Bulls Vintage Championship T-shirt

Just as Ebay saw an increase in traffic, Casey Pit, who has been operating Rare Vntg for the past seven years, says search traffic on his site for anything Bulls or Jordan related has spiked too. Knowing everyone would be in search of Bulls merch, it took him about two weeks to curate the shop's special collection that debuted last Sunday. COVID-19 closures obviously made the process, which usually consists of traveling between various thrift stores and flea markets, a bit harder. Pit resorted to reaching out to other collectors and even dipping into his personal collection to compile the pieces instead.

"I think I had a shirt every year they won the championship but they might have all been fake, who knows. Because around that time they were literally selling shirts everywhere." -Vic Lloyd

“I think a lot of the people that sell vintage sportswear stuff, like myself, would say that the backbone of our business would be Bulls stuff, Raiders stuff, and iconic looks from the '90s,” says Pit. “Eazy E wearing a Raiders or Kings snapback made that stuff cool forever. I think Jordan rocking the sneakers and then obviously the attire on and off the court definitely made that more popular as well.”

Brands like Reebok and Mitchell and Ness have also been able to capitalize on the current hype. Last week, Reebok dropped a reissue nodding to the jacket worn by 1992’s Dream Team on the podium—Jordan infamously covered the Reebok logo with an American flag. According to the brand, the release was purely reactionary and was pulled from warehouse inventory following traction from an Instagram post nodding to the jacket’s mention in The Last Dance. Mitchell and Ness, a company known for its authentic throwback jerseys and vintage-inspired apparel has also promoted Bulls-related product on social media each weekend from 1998 Finals warm up jackets to Rodman throwbacks.

Michael Jordan Mitchell and Ness

According to Mitchell and Ness CEO Kevin Wulff, numbers have rose across the board since the premier of The Last Dance. The attention hasn’t been limited to strictly MJ and the Bulls either. He says searches for other rival players like Isiah Thomas, Penny Hardaway, and B.J. Armstrong have also seen an uptick as a result. When the doc kicked off, visits to the website on Sundays and Monday grew by 102 percent in comparison to the last 10 weeks. Revenue increased by 283 percent within the same time span.

“We are not able to order any new product in time for this, but the Bulls have been one of our strongest teams for many years,” Wulff tells Complex. “We're getting great sales from the teams that were the [Bulls] bitter rivals during that period of time. It's not just the Bulls, but it's kind of high tide, all boats rise. Sales are indicative of a lot of these other teams and players that have been featured in The Last Dance.”

Vic Lloyd, co-founder of Chicago’s Fat Tiger Workshop and a Windy City native, recalls the energy in the city during that time saying it felt like “the center of the world.” 

Michael Jordan 1998 Finals

“I think I had a shirt every year they won the championship but they might have all been fake, who knows. Because around that time they were literally selling shirts everywhere, every dude on the corner,” Llloyd tells Complex. “Hindsight being 20/20, you wish you held on to some of that stuff, but we got so used to winning that it was like, ‘Oh man, I'm going to get another one next year.’”

Ironically enough, these bootleg shirts that were so readily available for $10 or $20 back then in Chicago are some of the most coveted vintage items today. Fracher and Pit both acknowledge the Bulls bootleg T-shirts, known for their giant prints across the front and back reminiscent of the popular rap T-shirts of the same era, as some of the better items to come across. If in good condition, these pieces are able to sell for around $400. 

“When those rap tees were on the corner, they were a dime a dozen, but now it's the opposite where the Starter championship tees are a dime a dozen,” Pit tells Complex. He says size also factors into the pricing with large and extra large items being priced more than small or medium because of the tendency to wear vintage clothing baggier. 

Bulls Vintage Bootleg T-shirt

These sharp increases in interest are common for the vintage market. Pit cites the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant this past March as another moment he saw a major shift in the market with many in search of Kobe related items. With that in mind, vintage sellers are doing their best to capitalize on the Bulls being in everyone’s mind right now. 

“I saw someone that had a Scottie Pippen authentic jersey with a burn mark on it on Grailed for $60 before The Last Dance dropped. They took it down and it's now at $750,” says Pit. “A black pinstripe Jordan authentic was pretty readily available for $150 maybe a year ago and now those are back up to $300. A lot of the stuff has doubled in price. Even though they're common, it's the hype that makes it sell.”

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